Capitol Week-in-Review – July 20, 2017

State Senate Republicans Unveil Complete Budget Plan

The Republican-led Legislature is struggling to reach consensus on a new two-year state budget. While there is broad agreement on funding and programmatic changes for most state agencies, boards and commissions, legislative Republicans are divided on transportation financing, tax policy and state funding for K-12 education.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) presented a complete Senate Republican budget plan to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester). This 660-page plan includes budget-related provisions already approved by the legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance and the proposed Senate Republican position on the unresolved budget items.

Speaker Vos indicated that Assembly Republicans will “give the proposal fair consideration.” It remains to be seen whether the Senate Republican proposal brings the two sides closer together. We hope it will.

We have completed our initial review of the Senate Republican budget proposal. On the key issues – tax policy and transportation financing – their proposal is a combination of good and not-so-good news.

Their tax relief plan is “small business-friendly.” More specifically, their proposal:

  • Repeals the Personal Property Tax on watercraft, machinery, tools, patterns, furniture, fixtures, and equipment from the property tax, and classifies certain items that are currently assessed as personal property, but which have characteristics similar to real property, as real property, effective with property assessed as of January 1, 2018;
  • Repeals the State Forestry Mill Tax effective with property tax assessments as of January 1, 2017 (property taxes levied in 2017, for payment in 2018);
  • Eliminates Wisconsin’s Alternative Minimum Tax in tax year 2017; and
  • Expands the state sales and use tax exemption for lump sum contracts to apply to all construction contracts and to subcontractors.

We are particularly pleased with their proposal to end the state’s Personal Property Tax. Repealing this unfair and antiquated tax imposed on Wisconsin small businesses is our top budget priority. With the Senate Republicans on our side, we will now focus our lobbying efforts on Assembly Republicans.

From our perspective, their transportation financing plan is too reliant on new borrowing – $712 million – to finance improvements to Wisconsin’s state highway network. Transportation-related debt service costs already exceed 20 cents on the dollar. Borrowing even more money is not a long-term, sustainable transportation funding solution.

State of Wisconsin Launches New Website to Help Employers Fill Internship Positions

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) launched a new website – WisConnect – to help employers fill internship positions and college students get valuable on-the-job training.

On this site, Wisconsin employers can post internship openings and search for internship candidates by location, by major and by key skills and competencies.

All college students with an active .edu email address can create a WisConnect account, upload their resume and search Wisconsin internship opportunities by geography, college major and more.

For more information, we encourage members to visit this new site.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Sides with Property Owners

State law sets forth a basic scheme for the assessment of property. It is to be valued from actual view or from the best information that can be practicably obtained.

An actual view assessment requires a detailed viewing of the interior and exterior of all buildings and improvements and the recording of complete cost, age and use of the property. A property owner may deny the assessor entry to view the property in which case the assessor values the property using the best evidence available. This is commonly referred to as a doomage assessment.

Property owners who disagree with the assessment may appeal to the local Board of Review. However, under state law, no person is allowed to appear before the Board of Review to contest an assessment if the person has refused to allow the assessor to view the property.

In 2013, a married couple from the Town of Dover in Racine County had their property reassessed but objected to the assessor’s inspection of the interior of their home. After receiving their property assessment, the couple appealed the assessment to the Board of Review. In turn, the Board of Review refused to hear the objection because the Town’s assessor was refused entry to the home.

A court battle ensued. The couple claimed their due process rights were violated because they have been subjected to a tax, but have been denied any process by which to challenge it. The Town of Dover countered that the couple made the affirmative decision to deny the tax assessor an interior inspection of their home.

Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that a tax assessor’s search as a precondition to challenging the revaluation of their property violated the couple’s due process rights as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 1 of the Wisconsin Constitution.

This is a clear victory for property rights advocates. With that said, the practical consequence of this ruling may be limited. In a challenge to the valuation of property, the assessor’s valuation is presumed to be correct. The property owner may present evidence in support of what he\she believes to be the proper valuation. Based on that evidence, the Board of Review decides whether to adjust the assessor’s valuation.